Indian religion, spirituality and philosophy

India is host to one sixth of the world population. Its culture goes back over 2000 years. The caste system has fragmented it socially.

All this combines to make Indian religion one of the hardest topics to write about. The current political situation makes it worse. In an attempt to mitigate the situation of the lowest casts, the Indian government has set quota on government jobs and university education – to make sure anybody from the lower casts and tribes who qualifies can get up in the world.

The result is that in India religion, and the caste system, have become politics. And that means that there is a vested interest – not just from a religious perspective, but also from a political and social one, to idealize Hinduism (for instance). This affects information on Hinduism and Indian history on all levels – from online to Indian universities.

Indian religions are generally not membership religions. That is – there is no central authority to keep track of who is really a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Sikh. In fact, membership religions are the minority. Only protestant Christian sects really follow that organizational model. Even the Roman Catholic Church generally simply assumes that a person who was born Catholic, remains a Catholic.

So, the way to measure how many people there are in each religion is a matter for the Indian Census. Here are the results from 2001:

Religion Population Percent
All religions 1,028,610,328 100.00%
Hindus 827,578,868 80.5%
Muslims 138,188,240 13.4%
Christians 24,080,016 2.3%
Sikhs 19,215,730 1.9%
Buddhists 7,955,207 0.8%
Jains 4,225,053 0.4%
Others 4,686,588 0.32%
Religion not stated 727,588 0.1%

Miscellaneous notes

In India the term ‘yoga’ or ‘yog’ means something like ‘spiritual path’. More about yoga.

As has already been implied, religion is partly tribal in India.¬†That is: like Judaism, it’s inherited. In India that means it is linked to the caste-system. This puts the so called ‘tribal religions‘ in a special category as they’re linked to low and non-caste jati’s.¬†

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